This year, Louisville’s Camp Hi-Ho celebrates its 30th anniversary. Blaine Lawrence recorded a podcast with Lenihan Sotheby's International Realty and recalls how his parents began the camp in the summer of 1986 as an “alternative to daycare.” Local families from church, little league, and the neighborhood would join the Lawrence family at Blaine’s paternal grandfather’s farm in Henry County to fish, swim and play basketball – which eventually transformed into the camp. He adds that it was really his “penny-pinching” mother’s desire to provide a needed service for kids who wanted the “summer camp experience”, but couldn’t necessarily afford the overnight camps that existed at the time.

playing on the water at Camp Hi-Ho

Since the camp’s founding, they’ve since relocated to Aiken Road, past Lake Forest and Persimmon Ridge, right on the Shelby County / Jefferson County line, where they’ve been since 2000. Nestled 30 minutes from downtown Louisville and 20 minutes from the East End, parents can elect to pick up and drop off their kids or send them on the bus from Ballard High School. Either way, the camp is a convenient place to drop the kids for “good, old-fashioned, fun activities.”

Whether kids want to cultivate a new hobby like fishing, horse riding, and archery, or try a daring zipline ride, or simply spend the afternoon shooting water-guns and jumping into the lake off water trampolines with other kids their age – these are all opportunities Camp Hi-Ho can provide.

Among the super fun activities that draw kids to Camp Hi-Ho, you’ll find:

  • “The Blob” – a big inflatable air pocket that launches campers into the lake
  • Traditional lake activities like boating and fishing
  • A 100-foot slip-and-slide down a hill into the lake
  • Arts and crafts
  • Horse riding at Shelby Trails
  • Sports
  • Access to a fort
  • Rope and tire swings
  • A zipline
  • Archery with 3D targets

Another neat program at the camp is The Pet Barn, which re-homes 50 puppies and kittens each year. The animals come from state shelters and are fully wormed and vaccinated by Dr. Oliver at Lyndon Animal Clinic. As part of the camp program, kids can bring home a pet for one night to see if it could be a good arrangement for the family. “We’re totally cool with parents bringing the puppy or kitten back to us,” Lawrence adds, but most of the pets do find their forever homes rather quickly.

What kids like best about Camp Hi-Ho is the unstructured nature, which gives them the freedom to choose how they’d like to spend their days. Before you start thinking “Oh gosh, they’re just free roaming around some farm out in Shelby County,” Lawrence clarifies that parents can feel comfortable knowing that Camp Hi-Ho is a very well-staffed environment, with 40 counselors watching out for the children’s safety at all times. They employ an extremely rigorous interview process, weeding through 150 applicants to fill just 10 or 15 vacant spots each summer.

Ultimately, it’s this top-caliber staff that makes the camp as successful as it is. “You can have fun activities, and cool gadgets and things like that to attract campers,” Lawrence says, but if the staff isn’t fun and interactive with the kids, as well as responsible and respectful, then the business couldn’t sustain itself. One of the neat things about being a longstanding Louisville tradition for so many families is seeing past campers return as staff members or send their kids as campers later in life.

If you want to get your kids enrolled for the summer, you’ll want to jump on registration right away in November around Thanksgiving time. By the time spring rolls around, all sessions are usually full except the last session (August 8-12) and the wait list is long.

Adults who are interested in joining the fun may do so during the private and corporate event season from April through November. They also accept bookings for birthday parties and school field trips, but these slots fill up a couple months in advance.